The Best Way to Exercise on an Elliptical

If you are looking for an impact-free machine for cardiovascular exercise, the elliptical could be the answer. This cardio machine offers different intensity options, so users can set their own pace. In fact, people of all fitness, health, and age levels can take advantage of the cardiovascular benefits that the elliptical provides. 

Since your feet never leave the pedals, elliptical exercises are much easier on the joints than more dynamic cardio activities, making them ideal for people recovering from injuries and seniors seeking lower-impact exercises. You will receive the benefits of a comprehensive workout without adding pressure to your knees, ankles, or feet. 

Take Precaution

The elliptical is an excellent choice for beginners, but it’s best to ensure you learn the proper way to use one before experimenting with its capabilities. Before adding elliptical exercises to your cardio routine, talk with a personal trainer or fitness professional. There are several brands and varieties of ellipticals, each with different features. A trainer can help you determine which  is best for your personal use.

Once you have selected the elliptical that is best for you, the next step is having the proper form while working out. Proper form is just as important as the exercise itself, so if you don’t understand what constitutes this, you may risk injury.

Once you are comfortable, follow these steps and double-check that you are positioning yourself the correct way.  

  1. Step onto the elliptical machine with a straight back, keeping your shoulders down and head held high. (If you don’t have good back posture, you could risk experiencing back pain and stiffness after your workout.)
  2. Proper placement of your feet is important. Position them toward the inside edge of the pedals. Your weight should be on your heels, not your toes; otherwise, you may feel numbness or tingling during your workout due to reduced blood flow to the feet.
  3. Remember to keep your weight evenly distributed during your workout. To do this, transfer most of your weight to the lower part of your body by bending your knees, similar to a squat. Remember to keep your back straight, never leaning forward or resting your weight on the front of the machine. If you feel unexpected pain anywhere, it may mean your body weight is off balance.
    three people on ellipitical at the gym
  4. Do not lean forward, slump, or hunch at any point during your elliptical exercises. If the machine has movable arms, use them to keep your posture stable. Relax your arms while your hands cradle the handlebars as they move with your stride. Squeezing your abdominal muscles will help maintain proper back posture and add a little extra muscle toning.
  5. If you are uncomfortable, release and relax your arms where they are comfortable and then continue.

Full-Body Workout

Regardless of where you are in your fitness journey, there’s an elliptical exercise that works with your fitness goals. As you become acquainted with the machine and conditioned to the exercises, you can focus on other areas of your body and reach your long-term goals. 

To focus on the hamstrings and glutes, keep your heels down while pedaling. To strengthen your core, let go of the handlebars. This will increase engagement of your abductor muscles as they help you maintain your balance.

The elliptical allows you to work out various muscle groups simultaneously. To get a full lower body workout, switch the direction you are pedaling. For example, pedaling forward focuses on the quads, while pedaling backward works more on the buttocks and hamstrings. 

To add in an upper body workout, place your effort in pushing the handles forward to tone your chest, and pull them back toward you to work the upper back muscles. The back-and-forth motion will also work the biceps, triceps, and shoulders. As mentioned already, letting go of the handles will incorporate the core muscles.

Cross-Training Capabilities

Runners can use the elliptical on their “off days” as a cross-training tool. If you regularly run outside or participate in marathons and 5Ks, the elliptical offers a low-impact alternative when you need a break from running outside or on the treadmill.

You use the same muscle groups for running that you use for elliptical exercises. However, the elliptical gives your body a break from the effects of high-impact running. Reducing the possibility of injury is also a plus for runners if they have a big race coming up. 

Cross-training with an elliptical can also substitute running when rehabbing an injury. It can be configured to mimic your outdoor workouts at a lower, less intense level. This alternative will reduce pressure on the muscles that need rest and recovery. 

Weight Loss Goals

You can manage your weight with the elliptical. Most healthy adults only need about 20 minutes of moderately intense elliptical training per session five days a week.

Elliptical workouts are effective for fat loss and burning calories. It is possible to burn up to 800 calories during an hour of elliptical exercises. If you want to lose weight, though, you must increase the intensity and work out for at least 30 minutes at least five days a week. To maximize the number of calories burned, opt for an endurance workout that focuses on maintaining a steady pace for a long period.

The amount of calories and fat burned depends on various factors. How intense your workout is will depend on your fitness level. Before you begin, consult a fitness or medical professional to determine your target heart rate during your elliptical workouts. male on elliptical

Weight loss elliptical exercises will vary depending on each person’s fitness level and goals. For example, a beginner’s elliptical workout may look something like this: Start off at a walking speed for five minutes and then increase to a jogging pace for 30 to 60 seconds. Continue to alternate until you have reached 30 minutes.

Make sure you are working hard enough to break a sweat. Short 30- to 60-second intervals of high-intensity exercise should do the trick. If you are on an elliptical that has movable handlebars, use them to pump your arms to increase your workout’s intensity further.

Remember to work at your own pace and do what feels comfortable to you. The elliptical provides a no-impact, full-body workout that is weight-bearing – meaning it forces you to move against gravity – building strong bones, muscles, and connective tissue. Elliptical exercises put minimal stress on your joints yet still provide just the right amount of conditioning for your heart and body.